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Indianapolis Zoo Review of Indianapolis Zoo

Discussion in 'United States' started by geomorph, 5 Oct 2009.

  1. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Indianapolis Zoo has a location which must be the envy of many zoos. It is located right on the edge of downtown and can be easily reached by foot, yet it is far enough that no sign of urbanity intrudes within its boundaries. It is part of White River State Park, an excellent urban park that contains a visitor center, grassy amphitheater, art installations, the excellent Indiana State Museum, the NCAA Hall of Champions, the fine Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and part of the pleasant canal walk. It also contains White River Gardens, a botanic garden and conservatory which adjoins the zoo and is included with zoo admission. The zoo itself is a relatively recent facility, opened in 1988. It is organized into four distinct areas based on biomes, as well as a central unthemed spine that connects them, and two other areas which serve as the childrens zoo and rides. The entire zoo is well organized and clean and uncluttered. It is a small zoo with a limited collection, so it is best described as a satisfying half day outing. Its entrance building is a low modern half-round arc consisting of ticket booths and turnstiles surrounded by a gift shop and education center, which leads to a nice plaza that leads to the various exhibit areas. The spine features a few average lemur exhibits, a small amphitheater, and a plain central cafe.

    The first and finest exhibit area is the Oceans biome. This is a set of three facilities that most visitors will remember after visiting the zoo. The first building houses the widest variety of exhibits and is a half-round arc that embraces the entrance plaza on the other side from the entry buildings. A fine outdoor rocky backdrop and pool for seals and sea lions is in the center with two viewpoints, and the building entrance to the rest of the exhibits is nearby. Upon entering, a curved darkly lit gallery walkway surrounds a circular projection of the ocean on the floor, and very clear graphics typical of the complex are presented on the walls. A long dark aquarium filled with rays is encountered first, and then an average medium tropical fish aquarium, and then an average small jellies aquarium. The next room is a large roomy shallow open tank filled with sharks for petting, and is the finest touch tank of its kind I have seen. It has plenty of room for the sharks to avoid contact as well as swim, and the walls are covered with large shark graphics and the ceiling is draped with blue wavelike banners. The next room features multiple small tropical aquariums set in a wall as well as three larger columnar tanks for seahorses, and nearby is a nice underwater window into the rocky seal and sealion exhibit already viewed from outside. The next room is an Antarctic penguin exhibit that surrounds the visitor on both sides, with a glazed floor section looking down into a watery passage that links the two halves together. The exhibit size is average but nicely detailed. I was not as impressed with this as others have been, since the floor passage was small and I didn't see any of the birds utilizing it. The last room is an indoor underwater viewing window of the polar bear exhibit, which is a slightly above average rocky outdoor enclosure that is also viewed from another vantage point after exiting this building. The next facility is the walrus exhibit, first viewed in a shelter with a small seating amphitheater for watching the underwater viewing windows. Then around the corner is a larger unsheltered viewing window looking down into the large pool and rocky shores of this fine exhibit space with three active pinnipeds. The last facility is the largest and is a very large indoor show amphitheater for bottlenose dolphins with a coastal village themed backdrop. The large rectangular tank features acrylic sides for partial underwater viewing and a shallow front shelf for show displays. About 10 dolphins are housed here, and are free to swim the deep main tank during non-showtimes. A unique and by now famous lower viewing gallery called Dolphin Dome actually extends into the main tank so that visitors are surrounded on all sides and above by the dolphin habitat, and it is a thrill. During showtimes, it is fun to watch the dolphins jump out of the water and then plunge back in from this viewpoint. One costly improvement that would be nice is if skylights or clerestory windows were added to the high ceiling of the building so that natural light could reach the tank.

    The next biome is Forests, which feels like it is half as extensive as it should be. It is a forested loop trail through pleasant average rock walled exhibits for red pandas and muntjacs, amur tigers, gibbons and Asian otters, brown bears, and a timber and wire aviary for bald eagles. The grassy open tiger exhibit is not as satisfying as it should be because the three viewing areas are seen through vertical wire as well as a second addition of chainlink fencing. I suspect in the future that these will be replaced by at least one glazed window to improve viewing. This complex adjoins the area that acts as the childrens zoo, and I hope that in the future that area is torn out and this Forests area is expanded to be the size and scope that it deserves.

    Another biome is Deserts, and it is the smallest. It is almost entirely contained within a small building, except for a seasonal outdoor tortoise yard. The building is a round skylit geodesic dome with naturalistic rockwork and painted wall backdrops, where a winding path views several open multispecies lizard and tortoise exhibits that adjoin one another and a pair of below average meerkat exhibits. A dark back gallery is dedicated to snakes, the front half of which is a very thorough educational graphics display punctuated by small herpatariums, the back half featuring a row of small abstractly presented venomous snake displays. This biome is essentially the reptile house, and as such it is an average collection in an average facility, although one species of note here is the rare Cayman blue iguana. Where are the larger desert animals? This complex adjoins the area that features several rides, and I hope that in the future that area is torn out and this Deserts area is expanded to be the size and scope that it deserves.

    The next areas are the non-biome themed Rides area and the non-biome themed Encounters area, the latter acting as the childrens zoo. These areas cut off the final biome exhibit area from the other three. Rides is comprised of three attractions. A small 3D Ride, a small low rollercoaster with a decent African savanna themed jeep train and loading station and thich grassy landscape called Kombo Family Coaster, and a train ride with a large route that circles the last biome area. Encounters is a collection of brightly painted barns and yards, mostly for a large assortment of domestic animals but also featuring a few exotics in small habitats. It also features a carousel and a medium show ring and a carousel and a small splash park. Both areas are of average design quality and layout, but as mentioned before, would be better utilized for expansions of the neighboring biomes.

    The last area is the biome of Plains. The theme is actually focused specifically to African plains, and a looping trail explores this nice set of exhibits, the second best part of this zoo. Currently the loop trail is disrupted due to construction of a new addition of several yards for cheetahs and another for bat eared fox, construction is in full swing. Five large open yard exhibits exist here and are above average. One is for giraffe and Addras gazelles and Spekes gazelles. Another is for zebras and kudu and ostrich, but was empty except for a pair of vultures due to the nearby construction. The white rhino exhibit is rock lined and includes a nice wallow close to the path and a small tented gazebo reached by a bridge which extends into the habitat. The last two large yards are for African elephants, one being a mostly rock walled smaller yard with a pool, adjoining a larger yard with an even larger pool and waterfall that gives way to a roomy grassy sloped habitat, and is the best of the exhibits in this complex. There is also a decently sized grassy exhibit for African lions with some rock features, but its two viewing areas both suffer from the same combination of vertical wire and chainlink that plagues the tiger exhibit seen earlier. An average fenced African wild dog exhibit is nearby, and finally a timber and netted enclosure for a large active troop of Guinea baboons whose contained landscape is almost entirely a series of large boulders. This exhibit feels too small for the number of individuals here but is still above average.

    Priced at 14 dollars for general adult admission and including the adjacent White River Gardens, this zoo is 3 dollars overpriced. However, its price drops in winter to 8.50. It does not provide a full day of sights and is shy of a really extensive collection. However, the general quality is nice and the Oceans biome is worth the winter price alone. My rank for this zoo is number 22 in the 45 I have visited, just below Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa and just above Kansas City Zoo. In my list of top 50 themed exhibit complexes, Oceans is number 38. None of the individual exhibits makes my top lists, although the Dolphin Dome is a runner up for my top 15 aquatic mammal exhibits. I have posted pictures in the gallery.
     
  2. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I love these reviews, as they remind me of my 30 reviews on "Snowleopard's Epic Road Trip".:) I enjoyed the Indianapolis Zoo, but it is definitely not a contender for the 20 best in North America mainly because it only takes a few hours to tour the grounds. The best part of the zoo is its age, as because it was built in 1988 it is one of the newest zoos in this part of the world.
     
  3. zoogeek

    zoogeek Well-Known Member

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    I spent the day at the Indianapolis Zoo on Saturday, May 23. I took the Megabus from Chicago and back. So easy to do and only $15 RT! It was a 20 minute walk from downtown Indianapolis to the zoo.

    My faves: the ocean biome, touching dogsharks!, the elephants, the keeper chats for the komodo dragon and Guinea baboons (which started on time!), walruses, penguins (I saw penguins swimming underneath my feet!) and the animal encounter with the elephant (I touched an elephant!). One of the strangest exhibits I think I've ever seen were the snakes which were featured in large glass square boxes with pottery that matched the stone gravel. Very pretty but displayed more like art?

    Trivia: the female cub of poached Tiger # 2 of the joint Soviet-US Siberian Tiger study went to the Indianapolis Zoo. You can read about her in "Tigers In The Snow" by Peter Matthiessen. One of her offspring is at Lincoln Park Zoo. His half-brother is at Racine. I wanted to visit the Indianapolis Zoo because of this book.
     
  4. ollielloyd

    ollielloyd Well-Known Member

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    Sounds like a great zoo! Shame they dont still have the false killer whales in there with the dolphins! :)
     
  5. Cat-Man

    Cat-Man Well-Known Member

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    they had false killer whales in with the dolphins?, wow, can you give more info?
     
  6. ollielloyd

    ollielloyd Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, they had 2 (maybe more) females - Hosi and Tsuki. When the Whale & Dolphin pavillion at the zoo opened, originally it was meant to house 4 Belugas, Dolphins & 4 Pseudorcas (false killer whales), not sure what happened to the Belugas or if they even got any?

    The false killer whales were imported from the drives in Japan, which caused huge uproar with activists. (If you know what happens in Japan i'm sure you'll understand why). They lived there starting in April, 1989. One of them died in October 1992 after she stopped eating.

    I remember them being sent to Shedd whilst they renovated their pool when the paint started flaking. Here's a photo:

    [​IMG]

    Hope that helps :)
     
  7. Cat-Man

    Cat-Man Well-Known Member

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    cool,

    were the dolphins and FK Whales kept in the same pool?, if so, would the belugas been kept in the same pool aswell?
     
  8. ollielloyd

    ollielloyd Well-Known Member

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    Not sure if they ever got belugas. The whales were probably kept in the same pools, like they are at Sea World Orlando, Sea Life Park Hawaii and numerous other places in Asia. In Hawaii a FK Whale and BN Dolphin bred, and had a "wholphin" :)
     
  9. ANyhuis

    ANyhuis Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I'm from Indianapolis, so I've been a member of this Zoo since it opened in 1988. I've also been to this zoo literally hundreds of times. The false killer whales were here for about a year or two, then sent to Shedd, and I think they eventually ended up at Sea World Florida. I'm not sure why they never came back here, but I recall that they were not very good "show animals". The trainers would bring them in (yes, with the dolphins) and they'd just swim around. I "think" I remember one jumping halfway out of the water once.

    Those chainlink fences in from of the tiger and lion exhibits (that Geomorph) refers to first appeared pretty soon after the San Francisco tiger tragedy. And yes, the future plans are to replace them with glass.

    One thing you should have added to the description of the Forest biome is that, in the middle of it, there is a small building that has in the past held temporary displays of koalas, as well as a small Amazonian forest display for about 5 years. It's now empty, but a sign tells that it's being converted to be an Aye-Aye exhibit, starting in 2011.

    I'm a bit surprised at your lack of enthusiasm for the penguin exhibit. I personally think it's one of the best. You get to see at least 3 dozen penguins of 3 or 4 different species, and you see them all around you, with some swimming underneath your feet. I further like that they vary the light to match their Antarctic home.

    There is NO chance of closing down all of the central kids' rides! They are almost always very busy, so they serve two important purposes: (a) keeping children happy; and (b) generating much-needed funds for the Zoo.
     
  10. Cat-Man

    Cat-Man Well-Known Member

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    will koalas ever return?
     
  11. ANyhuis

    ANyhuis Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    No plans for that. They were here 2 or 3 times, on summer loans from the San Diego Zoo -- but ONLY for the summer. Similarly, we had a couple Komodo dragons here this summer, I believe they're from Denver.
     
  12. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    ollielloyd, thanks for the information about the false killer whales of the past! I imagine they were there before the viewing dome in the tank was built.
     
  13. tigertiger

    tigertiger Well-Known Member

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    How much of this zoo is inside or winter friendly? Planning a trip once the Walrus is back on display and trying to figure out logistics. Thanks!
     
  14. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @tigertiger: the massive Oceans complex has the unique Dolphin Dome, a coral reef tank, sharks, penguins, underwater viewing for polar bears and walrus, etc. The Desert Dome is a well-done, smaller version of Omaha's enormous dome, and so there are two complexes that are indoors at the Indianapolis Zoo. The rest of the zoo is outside, and even though it is not a very large zoo the African Plains and elephant paddock are both fairly impressive.
     
  15. ANyhuis

    ANyhuis Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    The African Plains area (antelope, giraffes, white rhinos, lions, baboons, African wild dogs, zebras, elephants) is about the only part of this zoo that is NOT "winter friendly. The Forest biome is also outdoor exhibits, but most of its animals are cold weather animals.
     
  16. tigertiger

    tigertiger Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the information!
     
  17. lagfan09

    lagfan09 New Member

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    As the owner of the photo you posted, I would appreciate it if you would include a link to it's original source, or at the very least, mention where you got it and that it's not yours.
     
  18. geomorph

    geomorph Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    The Encounters area described in the review is now closed and is set to be changed in the next few years to an Islands-themed area. I am glad to hear this!